Friday, October 7, 2011

Bertha’s Bakers Dozen ™: What Not to Say to the Parents of an Autistic Child

     Having lived with Buttercup’s autism for some years now, I have heard just about everything anyone could possibly invent.  Some helpful, some kind, a lot stupid.  (I will warn you in advance: given the circumstances, you must forgive me a bit of excess snark.)  Well, Letterman has his ten; Bertha has her Bakers Dozen … and this time, it’s the What Not to Say to the Parents of an Autistic Child list:

13) “He/She can’t have _________? (fill in the blank with gluten, tomatoes, dairy or whatever exacerbates your individual child’s autism symptoms)  I could NEVER do that to my kid!”  Newsflash: I’m not doing it TO my kid.  I’m doing it FOR my kid.  If you knew that one food item caused your child to lose bowel control, the ability to form sentences, and the peace to sleep through the night, you would be a fool to feed it to him anyway.       

12) “I think that ‘autism’ thing is totally over-diagnosed.”  How do you “over-diagnose” something that is staring you in the face?  All tests, observations, and instincts point to autism, ergo, it’s probably autism.  How would you like it if you told me your mother had breast cancer and I said, “I think that ’cancer’ thing is totally over-diagnosed”?  You could knock me in the floor and there isn’t a jury alive that would convict you.  Have a little courtesy.

11) “Don’t scold her for hitting.  She’s autistic and can’t help it.”  Call her disabled.  Call her handicapped.  Call her different.  Just don’t call her helpless.  We have to make some allowances, but violence is not one of them.   

10) “If you’d just spank her once in a while, she’d stop repeating herself over and over and over.”  Wow!  Gee!!  Why didn’t I think of that?!!!?!  And while we’re at it, why don’t you spank your kid for saying “I wuv you” instead of “I love you”?  Like Nanny used to say, “That’ll learn him, dern him!”    

9) “Did she just hug you?!  Autistics can’t feel emotion!”  No, you’re confusing my child with your mother.      

8) “She can’t have autism!  Only boys get that.”  Thank you for your insight.  You might also be interested to know that men can’t have breast cancer, women can’t have biceps, boys can’t cry, and girls can’t do long division.   

7) “What do you mean I shouldn’t talk about him where he can hear?  He doesn’t understand anything.”  Yes, he most certainly does understand what you are saying.  He understands that you are talking about him in an unkind and unnecessary way.  He also understands that your manners could use some spit and polish.

6) “Those autism parents - they can’t wait to blame their bad parenting on something.”  You’re right; just like your child’s glasses are a manifestation of your refusal to feed her enough carrots.  And that kid in the wheelchair?  His parents were too lazy to teach him to walk.  And don’t even get me started on those useless hearing aids ... 

5) “Don’t be so hard on her.  It’s OK if she eats with her hands.”  I really do appreciate you trying to be understanding.  Truly, I do, but manners are a requirement of everyone.  She will not make it very far in life if she eats like a resident of the city zoo.  And I’m not “hard” on her; I am gently firm.

4) “I don’t think it’s fair for my child to be required to play with your child.  Your child’s behavior is so odd.”  If my kid has to put up with your kid picking his nose, screaming at the top of his lungs, and incessantly droning on and on about every nut and bolt that holds a train together, I see no reason why your child should be bothered by the fact that mine sorts his chicken nuggets by size before he eats them.       

3) “If I throw a box of toothpicks on the floor, can she tell me how many there are?!”  No.  Can you?   

2) “Autism is fashionable right now.  Just wait a few years.”  Wait.  Autism … is … fashionable.  Did I hear you correctly?  Because I’m sure you did not just stand there and call me an attention whore.  I’m certain that you have enough brain matter to realize that autism is not a fashion statement.  I am absolutely positive that you did not just tell me that the hours I have cried over my child’s struggles with bowel control and the inability to communicate were because I’m keeping up with the Joneses.  And wait a few years for what, pray tell?!  Until she comes to me one day and says, “You know, Ma, all those times I wanted to tell you I love you but couldn’t make my mouth say the words?  It was all a joke!”?  Oh, yes.  Autism is so en vogue.   

1) “No kid of mine would ever act that way.”  I sincerely hope not, because that would mean your child is autistic.  And from what I’ve gathered by our brief exchange, you aren’t strong enough to be a good parent.    

© Bertha Grizzly 2011.  All Rights Reserved.  No duplication or distribution.

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